These are dark days my friends. The Vancouver Whitecaps have missed the playoffs for the second time in three years, they are losing their best player, and their captain has publicly stated that he wants to leave. It is against this backdrop that local journalist Jay Janower asks an excellent question:
The entire organization needs to look in the mirror, from Ownership all the way down. Ask yourself this Caps supporters, who or what excites you about next season? https://t.co/f6WKfIQELV— JAY JANOWER (@JayJanower) October 18, 2018
For many people, the answer is not much. But can you really blame them? The Whitecaps haven’t exactly been making the case to supporters that next year will be better. There have been some vague assertions that they’ll “reset the club” and “circumvent the globe” looking for players (presumably they meant circumnavigate but who knows with them) but the public statements the ‘Caps have made haven’t laid out any specifics for a plan to get better. Despite this I find myself eagerly anticipating the 2019 season. Here are the reasons why.
1. Spending Power
The Whitecaps are, relatively speaking, rolling in money (both real and theoretical) ahead of 2019. In addition to the much discussed Davies money there is most likely a sizeable Kendall Waston transfer fee in the pipeline. The most exciting aspect of this the possibility of bringing in designated players, but an underrated aspect is the General Allocation Money (GAM).
If the Caps sell Waston for anything >$1m, they’ll be able to convert $750k of that into GAM. Add that to the $750k they’ll also be able to use from the Davies transfer, and that’s an incredible amount of buying power within MLS. This re-build is going to be #VWFC— (@GlassCityFC) October 24, 2018
This is significant because, based on the general market rates, this would be enough GAM to bring in two or three high impact MLS starters. Some notable players who have been sold for GAM in the past few years are Darlington Nagbe, Dax McCarty and Dom Dwyer. Adding a few players of that quality would certainly see the Whitecaps in better shape (and that’s before any DPs they may add). If the Whitecaps spend their allocation money and the Davies transfer even remotely intelligently (yeah, I know) they have every chance of building a very good team.
2. Marc Dos Santos...Probably
It’s not been officially confirmed but it seems most likely that Marc Dos Santos will be the next manager of the Vancouver Whitecaps. I’ve seen some people disappointed that Dos Santos’s experience is mostly in the lower divisions but he genuinely is an exciting manager. Every team he’s managed save one, regardless of the level of dysfunction when he arrived, has been playing in a final within two years of him being hired. Semi pro team Trois-Rivieres Attak hired him in 2007 and within a year they won the Open Canada Cup. The Montreal Impact made him their head coach in 2009 after a bad start and they finished the season champions, beating the Vancouver Whitecaps 6-3 over two legs in the final. When Dos Santos moved to Brazil he was head coach of Primera Camiseta F.C., a club that literally had to contend with wild horses running around their training pitch. They didn’t make it to a final but they did achieve their best ever result in the state championship, only losing out to Brazilian giants Corinthians. He moved to Palmeiras as a youth coach and within a year they won their first ever youth championship. Dos Santos moved to the Ottawa Fury in 2014. They struggled in their first year but in their second year they won the NASL fall season and lost in the soccer bowl final to the high spending New York Cosmos. After Ottawa Dos Santos moved to Swope Park Rangers in 2016 where, you guessed it, he made it to the final knocking out Alan Koch’s WFC2 along the way. In 2017 Dos Santos won the final edition of the NASL before the league folded with expansion side San Francisco Deltas. So yes, Dos Santos doesn’t have MLS experience but the experience he does have has been more or less non stop winning.
3. Young Players:
I am firmly aboard the Michael Baldisimo hype train. He reminds me of Pedro Morales in a way that’s very exciting. I desperately hope he gets a chance to show what he can do with the first team. The ‘Caps also have Theo Bair coming in who’s goal rate at age group level was pretty tasty and a handful of other players who’ve been given looks by the youth sides of various nations. Dos Santos has a good history of utilizing young Canadians so there’s a good possibility these players and others will have the chance to show what they can do.
4. Voyageurs Cup:
The Canadian Premier League launches in 2019 and the teams will be competing in the Voyageurs Cup. It’s only tangentially related to the Whitecaps, but it’s going to be fascinating to see how these clubs compete against MLS teams.
5. Getting Excited for New Signings:
This is quite similar to my first point but I felt it warranted it’s own mention. My favourite part of every Whitecaps season is probably, ironically, the preseason. It’s when we get our first looks at the new players who have been brought in who we’ve scoured the internet trying to figure out if they’re any good or not. I always get very excited at this time of year because all of the players are proverbial magic beans. They could be anything! The Whitecaps could have found some future superstar in the depths of the South American jungles! They almost invariably didn’t but that excitement feels amazing. With a huge roster overhaul this feeling won’t be in short supply.
Naturally, I am most excited for the Whitecaps to be good. But I must consider the possibility that the rebuild will be unsuccessful. This would be demoralizing but every cloud has a silver lining. You can’t tell me that the fallout of the Carl Robinson firing hasn’t been just a little bit fun. Even the lead up to it was kind of fun. We learned that the assistants hadn’t had their contracts renewed thanks to TSN commentators leaking it; we learned that we only had Brek Shea because someone didn’t read his contract properly; and Aaron Ramsey’s agent called a well-respected member of the community a spreader of falsehoods. Truly glorious stuff. When the firing actually came down the drama only escalated. We learned that Stewart Kerr was upset with AFTN over a podcast he didn’t listen to; we learned that Stewart Kerr cussed out Bob Lenarduzzi after Vancouver’s embarrassing Voyageurs Cup exit, and then Stewart Kerr blocked almost everyone who had anything to do with the Whitecaps on Twitter (okay, a lot of it involved Stewart Kerr in some way). 2018 is coming to a close but there are still many loose strings. Will we ever learn who exactly was responsible for Shea’s contract extension? How long can Bob Lenarduzzi remain club President? What else might shake out if he does go? All this and more coming in 2019...maybe.